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FAQ Teens

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Caring for teens can be quite challenging.  And, as we all know, not all teens are the same. Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions. 


Internet Safety Tips

Internet is a wonderful place for learning and entertainment, but can pose dangers if precautions are not taken. Allowing free access puts your child, your computer and your personal data at risk. Help to instill good judgment in your children by encouraging them to take some common sense steps.  Take security precautions, understand the consequences of your actions and behaviors and enjoy the benefits of the Internet. For more information on how you can fight cybercrime, go to the Stop. Think. Connect. website.

Help your kids own their online presence:  When available, set their privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. Remind them that it’s okay to limit how and with whom they share information.

When in doubt, throw it out:  Remind your children that links in emails, tweets, posts and online ads are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or mark as junk email.

Know your protection features:  All major Internet service providers have tools to help you manage young children’s online experience (selecting approved websites, monitoring the amount of time they spend online or limiting the people who can contact them) and may have other security features.

Be positively engaged:  Pay attention to and know the online environments your children use. Surf the Internet with them. Appreciate your children’s participation in their online communities and show interest in their friends. Try to react constructively when they encounter inappropriate material. Make it a teachable moment.

Teach critical thinking:  Help your children identify safe, credible websites and applications. Encourage them to be cautious about clicking on, downloading, posting, and uploading content.

Explain the implications:  Help your children understand the public nature of the Internet and its risks as well as benefits. Be sure they know that any digital info they share, such as emails, photos or videos, can easily be copied and pasted elsewhere, and is almost impossible to take back. Things that could damage their reputation, friendships, or future prospects should not be shared electronically.

Empower your children to handle problems:  Teach your children to handle problems such as bullying, unwanted contact, or hurtful comments. Work with them on strategies for when problems arise, such as talking to a trusted adult, not retaliating, blocking the person or filing a complaint. Agree on steps to take if the strategy fails.

At what age can my child stay home?

Is my child old enough to be left home alone?  Minnesota law does not provide a specific age a child must be before he or she may be left home alone or left under the care of another child. There are general laws, however, that require adequate and appropriate supervision of children. 

The decision to allow your child to stay home alone should be based on the following:

  • The maturity level of the children.
  • The accessibility of the parent, guardian, caretaker or responsible adult by phone or in person.
  • The physical or mental health condition of the children.
  • The behavioral history of the children.
  • Whether a young child is using a stove, iron or appliance which poses a danger because of their age.
  • Whether the parents have discussed an escape plan or held a fire drill with the children.
  • Whether the residence has a smoke detector or there are unusual hazards in the home.
  • The children's reaction to being left alone.
  • The ages of the children being cared for.
  • Whether the child has completed a babysitting clinic.
  • The reliability of the person that the parent has chosen to provide supervision.
House Rules.  If you decide your tween may be ready to stay home alone, establish a few basic house rules that cover different situations:
  • What to do if the doorbell rings
  • What to do if the phone rings
  • Whether it's OK to have friends over, and if so, how many friends can come over
  • What kinds of snacks they can eat
  • Time limits on watching TV or playing computer or video games, and a list of approved programs and games
What about babysitting?

When can they babysit? 

By age 13, some boys and girls may be ready to babysit. It all depends on how ready and able they are to take on the responsibility of caring for young kids.  Taking a babysitting course is a good first step. They also can start out as a "mother's helper," where they take care of a child (or several kids) while the mom or dad is still at home. That way, they get an idea of what it will be like, but the parent would be there in case they have a question.   If they do decide to babysit, keep the first job short (an hour or two). It's also ideal if they can babysit for a family that lives in the neighborhood, so mom or dad will be nearby in case they have any problems or an emergency.

School Truancy

Attendance at school is mandatory by the state of Minnesota. Both the schools and the county work to ensure that children get the best education they can by enforcing regular attendance.

 Truant students:  A child is considered a "habitual truant" by the state if she or he is under the age of 17 years and is absent from attendance at school without lawful excuse for seven school days or for one or more class periods on seven school days. Children age 17 will be considered truant if they have not lawfully withdrawn from school with their parents' permission. Read Minnesota Statute 260C.007.
Consequences of truancy:  If a child continues to miss school, they will be required to attend a diversion meeting with family, school personnel, and a County truancy diversion worker. Failure to attend this meeting, and failure to follow through with expectations, may result in a petition being filed in Juvenile Court, which may result in any or all of the following consequences:
  • School detention, in-school suspension or another alternative.
  • Supervision by a County probation officer or social worker.
  • Community Service hours or Work Crew hours.
  • Participation in individual or family counseling, or complete a psychological or chemical health evaluation.
  • Participation in a group or in a series of educational programs through your school or community.
  • Court order for parent to attend school with you.
  • Fine of up to $100, or parent held liable for prosecution for your truancy with a penalty of up to 90 days in county jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Driver's license suspended or delayed until you are 18 years of age.
  • Home detention with child unable to leave home without a parent except to go to school or work. If you are put on home detention, someone will monitor your whereabouts.
Teen Pregnancy

We can provide assistance to young parents. The following resources are available to any teen parent.  Call 320-231-7800.  

  • Help to find housing and transportation
  • Educational planning and career development
  • Assistance with locating day care
  • Support groups
  • Financial and medical assistance
  • Help is establishing parentage
  • Help in preparing for labor and delivery
  • Education on infant care and growth and development
  • Immunizations and well child care
  • Referral to the WIC program
Bullying and Harassment

Bullying is often dismissed as part of growing up, but it’s actually an early form of aggressive and violent behavior.  Six out of 10 children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 24, and this behavior can turn into a criminal record.  Bullies don’t go away when elementary school ends. In fact, bullying actually peaks in middle school and continues into high school. It is reported that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by another. Bullying takes lots of forms—girls can bully too.  Parents, schools, law enforcement and others must work together to end harassing behavior by our youth. For more information for parents, visit Pact for Families or talk to your school social worker or nurse.  Other resources for schools

Safe and Supportive Schools: Minnesota Department of Education


A gang is a group or association of three or more persons who may have a common identifying sign, symbol or name, and who individually or collectively engage in criminal activity such as drug sales, car theft, robbery and burglary.  Here are just a few things you can do to keep your child from being lured into a gang:

  • Establish non-negotiable family rules regarding the use of alcohol, drugs and gang membership.
  • Establish clear guidelines and limits for your children’s behavior and their activities.
  • Spend time with your children; do things with them and attend functions in which they are involved.
  • Respect your children’s feelings and attitudes; help them develop a strong sense of self-esteem.
  • Demand accountability for money and clothes.
  • Be observant of dress patterns and jewelry.
  • Know your children’s friends.
  • Meet regularly with school counselors and teachers.
  • Educate yourself about gangs and drugs. Go to the G.R.E.A.T. Program or National Gang Center websites.
  • If assistance is needed, seek professional help from a local agency such as law enforcement, social services or school counselors.

Look for the signs:  Youth who are involved in gangs show a significant change in attitude toward authority. They sometimes have sudden negative contact with police.  Socially, they will withdraw from the family and have a sudden change in friends. Their grades in school will decline, and there will be signs of tobacco, alcohol and drug use.  The child will change how they dress. They will wear one particular color or brand. Signs and symbols will appear on personal articles.

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are crimes committed against others because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or national origin. Crimes motivated by bias carry more severe penalties than the underlying crimes.

If you are a victim:  Immediately report the crime to the local police or Sheriff’s Department. Report all information about the crime, including all facts showing that the offender was motivated by bias, and the identity of any witnesses to the offense. Be prepared to give as many details as possible, and report the information while the facts are fresh in your mind.

For more information on hate crimes, call Kandiyohi Health and Human Services at 320-231-7800 or your local Law Enforcement Center (Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Department 320-235-1260 or City of Willmar 320-235-2244).

Prescription and Over the Counter Drug Abuse

Every day in America, 2,500 youth ages 12–17 abuse a pain reliever or other prescription medication for the very first time. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Be sure teens know that the risks of taking these drugs far outweigh any “benefits.” It is illegal to use a prescription that is not written for you.  

The best way to insure that unused or expired medications do not contaminate the environment or get into the wrong hands is to safely dispose of them by dropping them in Prescription Drop Box located in the lobby of the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Department. Questions?  Call the Drug Free Communities Coalition at 320-231-7800.

Teen Drinking

According to the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, 33 percent of 12th graders have used tobacco in the last 30 days. In addition, 59 percent of 12th graders have used alcohol in the last year.   What parents can do

  • Be a positive role model.
  • Know where your child is and who they’re with at all times.
  • Establish a reasonable curfew and clear rules for behavior.
  • Talk about your expectations regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse. 

For more information, call the Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition at 320-231-7800